HOC

HOC

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PARLIAMENTARY GOVT:

  • British form of constitutional and representative govt
  • Legisltative and executive power is fused
  • Power is exercised through a two chamber assembly

 

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FEATURES OF PARLIAMENTARY GOVT:

  • Parliament is the main source of all political authority
  • Govt must be drawn from parliament
  • No strict seperation of powers
  • Govt is accountable to parliament
  • All members of govt much come from HOC or HOL
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FEATURES OF PRESIDENTIAL GOVT:

  • Legislative and executive are elected seperately
    • Have seperate sources of authority
  • President is not part of legislature
  • President is accountable to the people, not the legislature
  • Clear seperation of powers
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ROLE AND SIGNIFICANCE OF PARLIAMENT:

  • UK parliament is sovreign
    • Right to ammend or unmake any laws
  • Because of fusion, govt is accountable to parliament
    • eg: Camerons evidence to the liason committee on News International
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FUNCTIONS OF PARLIAMENT:

Legitimation:

  • Parliament supports govt - doesnt want to change it
  • HOC plays leading role in acting on behalf of people because it is elected
  • Unelected HOL cannot claim same authority
    • This is called Promulagation
  • Laws passed announce legitimacy

Representation:

  • Party representation:
    • Party composition doesn't reflect distribution of party support
      • eg: 2010, 650 MP's in HOC and 1 independant MO (SYLVIA HERMAN)
  • Representation of special interests:
    • Occurs through many ways:
      • Pressure groups
      • Trade Unions - close relations to LAB
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FUNCTIONS OF PARLIAMENT 2:

  • Representation of constituency interests:
    • Local MP's represent all voters in constituency
      • eg: Jonathon Djanogoly (Huntingdonshire)
    • Carry out case work where any voter can raise a concern
    • Representatives have no choice - follow instruction
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HOC LEGISLATIVE PROCESS:

Legislation: Making a law

FIRST READING:

  • Taken into floor of HOC
  • Proposed law is very simplistic
  • Formal introduction - no debate
  • Don't need to know contents - just prepares for discussion

SECOND READING:

  • Taken to the floor of HOC
  • Date for second reading must be named on first reading
  • Debate on general principles (might be a vote)
  • Proceed to next stage if HOC votes
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HOC LEGISLATIVE PROCESS 2:

COMMITTEE STAGE:

  • Examination of all details
  • Most bills considered by small committees
    • AKA standing committees
    • Membership of committees is roughly in proportion to number of party seats
  • Members allowed to suggest changes
  • Ammendments usually withdrawn

REPORT STAGE:

  • All of HOC is informed of what happed at committee stage
  • If ammendments then bill is reprinted
  • Veto point
  • Can suggest further changes
  • Sometimes this stage isn't necessary if bill has been considered by the whole house
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HOC LEGISLATIVE PROCESS 3:

THIRD READING:

  • Gives HOC a chance to look at the bill as a whole
  • Veto point
  • Cannot be changed
  • Accepted or rejected
  • Clerk then carries it to HOL
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STANDING COMMITTEES (PUBLIC BILLS COMMITTEES):

  • 2007 became known as public bills committees
  • Improves bill as a piece of legislation
    • 650 MP's is too many to effectively scrutinize a bill
  • Have unlimited oppurtunities to pose questions in long debates
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HOL LEGISLATIVE PROCESS:

  • Basically the same as HOC
  • Committee stage - ammendments usually considered by whole house
  • Have delaying powe and ammendment power
  • HOL changes must be endorsed by HOC
    • eg: 2000, local govt act, lords refused to vote for removal of section 28
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THE LORDS POWERS:

Ammendment Power:

  • Can delay an ammendment for up to a year
  • After a year, govt can pass bill without consent of Lords
    • eg: 2000, sexual offences act, wanted to equalize age of consent, defeated by HOL, but got approval by using the Parliament Act of 1949, defeated because HOC was LAB and HOL was CONS

Delaying Power:

  • Delay money bills for up to a month
  • 1911 Parliament Act reduced time for delaying
  • Job of HOL is to make govt "think again"
    • eg: 1909, David Lloyd George, welfare state, increased taxes on rich, passed HOC, but defeated at HOL
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ROYAL ASSENT:

  • Where proposed law (bill) becomes actual law (act)
  • Monarch no longer signs bill personally
    • Signed on their behalf
  • Monarch hads over authority to speaker of Commons and Lord Chancellor in Lords
    • AKA letters patent
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WEAKNESSES OF PUBLIC BILLS COMMITTEES:

Partisanship:

  • Structure and deliberations of committees mirror party conflict
  • Debate is usually continuation of part debate at second reading
  • Opposition MP's table ammendments and speak at length
  • Govt are urged to stay quiet by whips to stop delays
  • Voting is usually on straight party lines

Lack of Informed Membership:

  • Appointed afresh for each new bill
  • Dispanded once completed its work
  • No permanent membership
  • Can't build up a body of expertise
  • Can't develop collective memort
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WEAKNESSES OF PUBLIC BILLS COMMITTEES 2:

Lack of Adequate Information:

  • Departamental select committees are to "send for persons, papers and records" - take evidence
  • Members may be sent material from outside bodies
  • Provision in the standing orders for appointment of special standing committees
  • Hold up to 3 evidence taking sessions
  • Introduced 13 years ago
  • Only 5 bills have been referred to special standing committee

Lack of Sufficient Time:

  • After number of sittings, govt introduce a timetable - GUILLOTINE
  • Ensure proceedings are completed by designated date
  • Maybe a vote without discussion if time is cut short
  • Scutiny is regarded as inadequate
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PROPOSALS FOR REFORM:

Regular Use of Special Standing Committees:

  • Noteable improvement in proceedures through use of SSC's
  • Regular use has been advocated by Commons select committee

Timetabling of Bills:

  • Guillotine from govt
  • Proceedure committee recommended lengthy bills should be timetabled
  • Provides more balanced scrutiny

Permanent Membership:

  • Proposal was put forward of permanent membership with additional members being added individually
  • Allow for body of experitse
  • Might help break down partisanship
  • More presitge associated with membership
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PROPOSALS FOR REFORM 2:

Committee Stage First:

  • Committees only see bill after second reading - Douglas Herd
  • Restricts scopes of committees
  • Committee stage before second reading (Norton), radical proposal
  • Increases influence of committees
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METHODS OF SCRUTINY ON THE FLOOR OF THE HOUSE:

PMQ's:

  • Political "theatre"
    • Sound bites
      • eg: Internal memo to Miliband
  • Wednesdays, 30 mins
  • Limited oppurtunites for real probing
    • One question plus one supplementary
  • Dominance of frontbencher
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METHODS OF SCRUTINY ON THE FLOOR OF THE HOUSE 2:

Ministerial Question Times:

  • 50 mins
  • Oral replies on the floor
  • Replies are a matter of public record
    • Published in Hansard - increases accountabilty because ministers can't go back on answers
  • Backbench MP's
  • 2007 reform - open questions, 15 mins
    • Only 1/3 of questions get heard, others are in writing
  • Ministers know in advance the questions so less effective check on the executive
    • May not be able to ask topical issues
  • Civil servants help with advice and answers
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METHODS OF SCRUTINY ON THE FLOOR OF THE HOUSE 3:

Written Questions:

  • More complex
  • MP write response
  • No limit to how long or how many questions

Early Day Motions (EDM's):

  • Similar to petitions
  • MP's put pressure on govt to change policy
  • MP's create EDM and other MP's sign it
    • eg: August 2008, 70 LAB MP's signed EDM on wanting windfall tax on energy company profits
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METHODS OF SCRUTINY ON THE FLOOR OF THE HOUSE 4:

Opposition Days:

  • 20 days a year
  • Not effective scrutiny
  • Leader of opposition determins what will be debated
  • LAB: "we're on the side of the squeezed middle"
    • eg: Feb 2011, LAB oppositon day on govt policy about feul costs

Adjournment Debate:

  • Monday - Thursday at end of sitting
  • Backbench MP's choosen at random
  • Usually about local issues
    • eg: 2008, Bob Spink, Equipment for soldiers in Afghanistan and Iraq
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SCRUTINY BY COMMITTEES: PUBLIC BILLS COMMITTEES -

  • Historically well established
  • Value to the House
  • Acted as a means of specialisation, safety values, policy influencers
  • MP's specialize in public policy and devlop knowledge of particular subject
  • MP's gain reputations as formal experts
  • Committees are important for what they do
  • Reminds ministers that they may be examined
  • Committees determine own agenda and may choose a topic govt doesnt want
  • Generate more open govt
  • Ministers can be summoned at short notice
  • Able to present authorative reports
  • Offer possibilty of attention
  • Influence policy
  • Added a new dimension to life in HOC
  • Invite submissions from outside organization
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SCRUTINY BY COMMITTEES: PUBLIC BILLS COMMITTEES -

  • A govt would not be keen on having activites investigated in detail
  • Highlight imbalance between parliament and executive
  • Serve little purpose
    • Have few powers
  • Inspire little confidence
  • Inadequate resources, limited powers, amature approach, limited influence
  • Failure to keep up with demands
  • Only specialists have expertise
  • Can't make witnesses answer questions
  • No formal sanctions
  • No way of ensuring reports are acted upon
  • Important parts are often missed
  • Many have had little training
  • Questioning is often inconsistent
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ROLE OF SELECT COMMITTEES:

  • No part in legislature of budget
  • Examine expenditures, administrations and policies
  • Not as dominated by paritsanship as public bills committees
  • Permanent
  • Began in 1979
  • Publish reports with written evidence
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SCUTINITY BY COMMITTEES: SELECT COMMITTEES:

Ministers Are Questioned By MP's With Specialist Expertise:

  • This has some substance
  • Not all members have policy knowledge which is detailed through long service
    • Committee membership may have a turnover if MP's are not re-elected (done by whips in 2010)
  • Gave party leadership influence over members who were too independant minded
    • eg: 2001, Blair, Dunwoody, Anderson and Foster

Promote Open Govt:

  • Can call for any witnesses or written eveidence
  • Can't force ministers to answer and they can refuse to attend
  • Committees can't do anything about it because they don't have enough power - exert pressure
  • Question people who aren't under political influence
    • eg: Murdochs and Mervyn King
  • Select Committees mean people are accountable to parliament
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SCUTINITY BY COMMITTEES: SELECT COMMITTEES 2:

Influence Govt Policy:

  • Policy recommentdations via reports
    • "Delayed drop effect"
  • eg: 2007, abolition of SATS at 14, got rejected, then in 1008, Ed Balls removed them
  • Not always influential because reports are rarely debated and govt often ignore them
    • eg: 2008, HIPS - no impact from govt

Liason Committee Questions PM:

  • Questions PM more effectively than full Commons chamber
  • All chairman of select committees question PM
  • Every 6 months in committee room for 2 and 1/2 hours
  • Doesn't plan questions
  • 4 different question areas: govt style, public service, foreign policy and public standing of politics
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DEBATES ABOUT PARLIAMENT:

How Far Is Parliament Sovreign?

  • Parliament is legally sovreign
  • Parliament is the source of all political power
    • Legislative power is supreme
  • Parliament may restore itself any powers delegated to others
  • Parliament can make any law it wishes
    • Enforced by courts and other authority
  • Not bound by its processors
  • Can not bind its successors

Reserve Powers:

  • Block legislation
    • eg: 2008, HOL blocked Browns attempt at 90 days terrorist detention
  • Parliament dismiss a govt through vote of no confidence
    • eg: James Callaghan, 1979
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DEBATES ABOUT PARLIAMENT 2:

Why Might Parliamentary Sovreignty Have Eroded?

  • European Union
    • UK became member in 1973 under Heath
    • Erosion because law made in England can be cancelled out by another country
      • eg: London and Brussels 2000, sexual offences act overules 1956 sexual offences act
  • Growth in executive power
    • Dominance of majority parties
  • Use of referendums
    • Erodes sovreignty because its a form of direct democracy
      • eg: AV 2011 - coalition deal
  • Devolution
    • Parliament is handing over sectors like education to Scotland
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DEBATES ABOUT PARLIAMENT 3:

How Effective Is Parliament?

  • Walter Bagehot - "The English Constitution"
    • Key text of how govt works
  • FUSION - "efficient secret"

Positives of This Dominace And Fusion:

  • Govts are stable (every 4-5 yearS)
    • eg: UK since 1945 - 17 govts, Italy since 1945 - 54 govts

Disadvantages of Dominance:

  • Executive are said to be more dominant
    • eg: Dangerous dogs act, passed very quickly and its flaws weren't discovered till after
  • Govt getting less popular
    • eg: Brown 1007-2010 29%
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DEBATES ABOUT PARLIAMENT 4:

Why Does The Govt Dominate Parliament?

  • The electoral system
  • Party lotaly
  • Prime Ministerial Patronage
    • PM can promote supporters
    • He wants promotion so he'll be loyal
  • Strengthening of the Whips:
    • Enforce control mechanism
    • "Withdraw the whip" means to remove rebellious MP's who are voting against govt
      • eg: Clare Short - Independant LAB MP

Introduction of Fixed Term Parliaments:

  • Offers security for 5 years
  • Can't discipline party
  • Binding LIB DEMS in
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